Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thinking Critically, Community Rights, and Corporations

Daniel (15 yrs. old) and I are back at reading Derrick Jensen's "Walking on Water" to each other this morning. I can think of 3 powerful quotes that I could pull from today's reading. I'm going to go with this one.

"It is possible to perceive the world such that it makes sense to gas Jews and others at death camps. It is possible to perceive yourself and others such that it makes sense to destroy the planet in order to make money and amass power, to perpetuate and make grow an economic system. None of this is to say these are "wise" choices: It's to say they're choices. It's also to stress once again, how often unquestioned assumptions frame our choices. If we wish to make different choices we must smash the frames that constrain us. We must, if we care about our own lives, and if we care about the life on the planet, begin to remember how to think critically, how to think for ourselves." -- (Pg. 119-120)

I had a couple thoughts related to Community Rights and Corporations this morning.

The first: It occured to me that I'm not against corporations. What I support is once again making corporations subordinate to We The People. A free and sovereign people define and have power over the robots they create. In other words, under the the theory of The United States the corporation was never meant to govern We The People. In my mind, a big reason why the American Revolution was fought was to drive a stake through the heart of the corporation.

The second: What does an authentic win look like for a community fighting a corporate harm? I think an authentic win looks like citizens within the community voting "no", or making a law against the harm being done to them. If a corporation decides to leave because of economic reasons or because of the hassle-factor that is the corporation leaving. You, as a self-governing people have not defined what your values are and codified them into law. Once you have expressed your values into law it's all out there in the open for the next corporation that will be coming in to do the harm.

Do I think this will be easy? No. Do I think it's a magic bullet? No. But I think it's far more effective than fighting corporate harms one at a time. It reminds a lot of whack-a-mole. That is what it looks like for citizens and activists fighting the harms.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

We Are The Relationships We Share

Daniel (15 yrs. old) and I are done reading a chapter out of Derrick Jensen's "Walking on Water" to each other this morning. I look forward to this ritual, especially with this book. I would consider Derrick Jensen one of the most important thinkers and writers of our time. Every teenager should be exposed to the words in "Walking on Water." The sad thing is that barely any will based on the simple fact that we can't stand too much reality. His analysis is so spot on that there is no place for the reader to hide. You're left with having to do something however small about our current collective suicidal path to extinction. Anyway, I was delighted to read this paragraph with him and discuss it.

"A human being is not simply an ego structure in a sack of skin. Human beings, and this is true for all beings, are the relationships they share. My health--emotional, physical, moral--is inextricably intertwined with the quality of these relationships, whether I acknowledge the relationships or not. If the relationships are impoverished, or if I systematically eradicate those beings with whom I pretend I do not have relationships, I am so much smaller, so much weaker. These statements are as true physically as they are emotionally and spiritually." ( Derrick Jensen, pg. 107, Walking on Water

Two things I'd like to mention from Community Right's front:

Another brilliant post by Paul Cienfuegos. This post is full of great ideas for local ordinances to combat climate change and assert a communities right to govern itself.

The Community Right's folks in Oregon are organizing to add a “The Right to Local, Community Self-Government” amendment to their state constitution. They asked that folks who support Community Rights like their Facebook page. The big picture plan is to drive a "The Right to Local, Community Self-Government" into our state and federal constitutions.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hierarchy in School

Back to reading Derrick Jensen's "Walking on Water" with my teenage son this morning. I'm glad that I got to read the paragraph below to him. I wish all schools (I know, I know, children don't need schooling. But we're stuck in the myth of Bottom-Line Economics for now) had this in their vision statement. The world would be a different place. And it would've made getting out of bed a whole hell of a lot easier for the majority of my mornings from ages 4 to 18.

"We perceive the entire hierarchy in school exactly opposite to how it really is. You're not here for me, and I'm not here for my supervisor. My supervisor is here to help me, the administrators are here to help him, all the way down the line. 'You' are the reason we're all here. What do you want to do?" (Pg. 96)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Who are you?

The lines below are some of my favorite lines ever written. They are a big reason why I don't send my kids to public school. They are a big reason why I live the way I do. They are a big reason why I resist this culture. I read them to my son last week, and I'm eternally grateful for this. They should be read in high schools across the nation. Ever since first laying my eyes on them I have wanted to type them out so I have quick access to them. Well, this morning, I finally did it. After exactly 30 minutes of typing they are now copied to my computer. It's funny because my book is a signed copy from the author. This morning I noticed he signed his name on 2/19/04. That's almost 11 years to the day. I remember the day I got this book. I pulled up to the mailbox in my pic-up, opened the door, reached in and grabbed it out, then closed the door. I drove up to where I usually park my truck, shut it off, then proceeded to tear off the brown grocery bag paper covering it. I opened the book and didn't get out of my truck until my future wife asked if I was going to come in the house (Life was a little different for me back then). I had to be out there for well over an hour. From where I'm sitting right now I can look out the window that wasn't there at the time and see myself sitting there in the old pic-up that I'd recently bought of my dad reading these revolutionary lines. Gawd, what memories. What a place. It's good to be alive resisting.

Be careful when you read the lines below. You just might do something you never expect to do.

"There's really only one question in life, and only one lesson. This question is whispered endlessly to us from all directions. The moon asks it each night, as do the stars. It's asked by drops of rain that cling to the soft ends of cedar branches, and by teardrops that cluster at the fold of your nose or edge of your mouth. Frogs, flowers, stones, pieces of broken plastic, all ask this of each other, of themselves, and of you. The question: Who are you? The lesson: We're born or sprouted or hatched or congealed or we fall from the sky, we live, and then we die or are worn away or broken or disperse in a river, lake, or sea, ripples flowing outward to bounce back from the far shore. And in the meantime, in that middle, what are you going to do? How are you going to find, and be, who you are? Who are you, and what your going to do about it?

"If modern industrial education--and more broadly industrial civilization--requires 'the subsumption of the individual,' that is, into a pliant workforce, then the most revolutionary thing we can do is follow our hearts, to manifest who we really are. And we are in desperate need of revolution, on all scales and in all ways, from the most personal to the most global, from the most serene to the most wrenching. We're killing the planet, we're killing each other, and we're killing ourselves.

"Our current system divorces us from our hearts and bodies and neighbors, from humanity and animality and embeddedness in the world we inhabit, from decency and even the most rudimentary intelligence. (How smart is it to destroy your own habitat? Who was the genius who came up with the idea of poisoning our own food, water, and air?) I've heard defenders of this system say that following one's heart is not a good enough moral compass, that Hitler was following his heart when he tried to conquer the world, tried to rid the world of those he deemed unworthy. But Hitler was no more following his heart than any of the rest of us who blindly contribute to a culture that is accomplishing what Hitler desired but could not himself bring to completion. The truth is--as I have shown elsewhere, exhaustively and exhaustingly--that is only through the most outrageous violations of our hearts and minds and bodies that we are inculcated into a system where it can be made to make sense to some part of our twisted and torn psyches to perpetuate a way of being based on the exploitation, immiseration, and elimination of everyone and everything we can get our hands on.

"Within this context, the question the whole world asks at every moment cannot help but also be the most dangerous: Who are you? Who are you, really? Beneath the trappings and traumas that clutter and characterize our lives, who are you, and what do you want to do with the so-short live you've been given? We could not live the way we do unless we avoided that question, forced others to avoid placing that question in front of us, and in fact attempted to destroy those who do.

"As we see." (Derrick Jensen, Pg. 41-42, Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution)

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Well over a decade ago I had a friend out of the blue come up to me and apologize.

"We blew it." He started out. "It was the moment we could have changed things for the better. People were organized and energized, and we blew it. I apologize to you for that. I apologize that you have inherited this horrible economic and political system, and world that is systematically being destroyed."

"No problem." I said uncomfortably and sort of surprised.

It was a few years after George W. Bush was appointed by the Supreme Court to be President of The United States. My friend came of age in the sixties, at the height of one of this countries most revolutionary moments. He watched Martin Luther King march on our nation's capital with 50,000 people, Malcolm X shot dead on a stage, Gaylord Nelson, the father of Earth Day, elected as our State's Governor then move on to the United States Senate, Federal clean air and water standards enacted, etc.

At the time I thought he was being tough on himself. Why should he shoulder his generation's shortcomings? I thought. Then, over a decade later while reading to my teenage son this morning, I unexpectedly read this paragraph to him:

"I want to apologize, just as people in the generation before mine should have apologized to me, for the wreckage of a world we're leaving you. The people of my generation are passing on to you the social patterns and structures, the ways of being and thinking, the physical artifacts themselves that are killing the planet. We're blowing it, badly, and you'll suffer for it. I'm so very sorry." (Derrick Jensen apologizing to an auditorium full of students at an all boys boarding school, Pg. 50, Walking on Water)

Shortly afterwards it all came together for me, and I apologized to my son. In a couple years he will be entering an economic and poltical system that is far worse than it was when I entered it in 1992. And a world with far less diversity.




Thursday, February 12, 2015

Unschooling with Derrick Jensen's Open Letter to Environmentalists

Some friends have asked what we do to educate our children at home. Here is a good example of what we did about a month ago. Since I'm a member of Derrick Jensen​'s reading club I received this open letter in my email. I thought it was so spot on that I wanted to read it to my family and see if they'd be willing to sign it also (I especially wanted to hear what my teenage son's thoughts were on it.) So I went through with my plan and read it, had a discussion focused on it for an hour or so, then we decided to sign it (numbers: 28, 29, 30). My son's first response after reading the letter was: “Dad, they’d rather see us go to Mars than restore grasslands to restore carbon.” If you notice that whoever put the list of signees together added his comment behind his name. I'm really glad they did that. I would have loved to have a letter like this read to me back in high school.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Slice of a Trip Down to Scheels Sports

Hayden (5 yrs. old), Sophia (2 yrs. old), and I are in the men's bathroom at Scheels All Sports out of necessity and circumstance. After Sophia looks with her hands where the liquid disappears in a urinal it's time to wash them. In case she touches anything else I quickly pick her up and carry her over to the sinks, set her back down and reach up to give the soap dispenser lever a pull to successfully fill the palm of my hand with a mound of white, bubbly foam. I take what I' got in my hands and put it into hers, then tell her to rub her hands together. As she's doing this I get her picked up and horizontally position her over the sinks so she can rinse her hands off. To an outside observer this could look like I'm playing airplane with my daughter. When in reality I'm worn down, frazzled, and just want to get the hell out of the store after spending well over two hours in there bowling 20 frames of miniature bowling, finding hidden children in racks of clothes from one end of the store to the other, helping reassemble a camping mess kit, chasing down what they call the "First and Best Really Bouncy balls ever created", and so on. We get her hands rinsed off and I fly her over to the electric-forced-air hand dryers, she smacks the button and starts to handle the hot air. Meanwhile I look over at the machine next to ours and there is my son positioned under the rush of hot air with his mouth wide open, lips and puffed out cheeks vibrating from the blast of air. "What in the heck are you doing, H?" I exhaustingly ask. "I'm drying my mouth out, dad!"

That's how our experience ended at Scheels in Eau Claire yesterday

The Big Impossible

A few nights back I couldn't sleep, so I got out of bed and pulled a book off from the shelf to read until I could fall back asleep. It's title: "Man Enough: Fathers, Sons and the Search for Masculinity," by Dr. Frank Pittman. I'm interested in the subject because I will be periodically working with young men between the ages of 14 and 19 through spring and well into summer on the baseball diamond. At that age I remember the question the took center stage in my mind was: What does it mean to be a man? This quote jumped off the page at me during my fit of sleeplessness.

"Masculinity is an 'artificial state, a challenge to be overcome, a prize to be won by fierce struggle.' So says David Gilmore in "Manhood in the Making," after he examined the ways in which boys become men in various cultures. Gilmore tries to define what it takes to be a man, what the puberty rituals attempt to instill in boys. He says, 'To be a man in most of the societies we have looked at, one must impregnate women, protect dependents from danger, and provision kith and kin...Manhood is a kind of male procreation; its heroic quality lies in its self-direction and discipline, its absolute self-reliance.' Gilmore tells us that the Fox tribe of Iowa considers being a real man 'The Big Impossible.' No man who sets out to achieve total masculinity can ever be man enough.

"Masculinity is supposed to be about protection of the family, but the pursuit of this Big Impossible can lead men to escape domesticity and the power of women. Men can't always do what man's gotta do to "feel like" a man and still do what a man's gotta do to "be" a man."(Pg. xiv)

I also like this quote about how terrifyingly dangerous and terrifyingly important women are to men. I remember reading somewhere that younger men look for the guidance of older men because the older men have been with women longer. They have more experience with the danger and importance of women, in other words.

"Why do men love their masculinity so much? Because men have been trained to sacrifice their lives for their masculinity, and men always know they are far less masculine than they think they should be. Women, though, have the power to give a man his maculinity or take it away, so women become both terrifyingly important and terrifyingly dangerous to men. It's all quite crazy, but this, too, is a part of the 'masculine mystique.'" (Pg. xvi)

Monday, February 09, 2015

Checking Rabbit Traps

It's 7:30 AM. I'm sitting at my T.V tray in front of the masonry stove fire reading an email. I hear Daniel's (15yrs. old) dresser drawer close behind his closed bedroom door. I sigh. He's up close to an hour earlier than usual. That means my cherished time to be alone reading and writing are about over. He comes out of his room carrying a loaded CO2 handgun dressed to go outside, which is slightly unusual. Usually he comes out grumpy with a handful of school books dressed ca...sually.

"Where are you going with that gun?" I ask.

"I'm going to check my rabbit traps." He says casually.

"Good luck," I say as he heads out the front door.

I'm a happy, proud, and grateful father this morning. Plus I get to read and write in solitude for a few more minutes.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Slowing The Rush To War The Redneck Way

Watching American Sniper brought up a memory for me that I'd like to share. On the morning the trade towers went down my grandfather stopped me on the road outside my great-grandmother's house. He in his pic-up and me in mine. It was a cold, crisp morning with the feel of fall in the air. I was driving home from cutting firewood at my future mother-n-law's house. He on his way home from having coffee with his sister, some brothers, and cousins at ma's house they called it. We got our trucks stopped, our windows rolled down, and after the "did-ya-hear-what-happens?" he said, "Don't you go fight for them. It's not worth giving up your life." We went on with our usual what've-you-got planned-today coversation and went our separate ways.

That's the redneck way of slowing the rush to war. It wasn't cowardice or just another one of grandpa's directives to rebel against. He'd seen his uncles rush off to WWII, cousins to the Korea War, and younger brother to Vietnam. He didn't want to see his eldest grandson rush off to war. It was an older man loving a younger man. It was a grandfather loving his grandson.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The Warrior and American Sniper

I decided to take my 15 year old son to see American Sniper. I don't go to the theatre or watch movies at home very often, so I surprised myself. Movies in general just don't interest me, or maybe it's just I don't feel like I have the time for them. But after listening to a hour long discussion on NPR about the movie, some lines by James Hillman came to me: There is a love and beauty in war that many of us don't want to see. And if we want to oppose war we have to go to war ourselves in our hearts and minds. We must imagine into the hearts of our enemy (All paraphrased).

Then I started second guessing myself, so I thought I'd better consult one of my elders and mentors. I pulled Robert Bly's "Iron John" off the the shelf and opened up to the chapter on Warriorship. This quote sealed it:

"We can all add further details to the account I've given of the decline from warrior to soldier to murderer, but it is important to notice the result. The disciplined warrior, made irrelevant by mechanized war, disdained and abandoned by the high-tech culture, is fading in American men. The fading of the warrior contributes to the collapse of civilized society. A man who cannot defend his own space cannot defend women and children. The poisoned warriors called drug lords prey primarily on kingless, warriorless boys.

"And it all moves so swiftly. The massive butcheries of 1915 [World War I] finish off the disciplined or outward warrior, and then within thirty years, the warriors inside Western men begin to weaken. The double weakening makes us realize how connected the outer world and the inner world are, how serious the events of history are." (Pg. 156, Iron John)

It's an interesting thought that part of the reason civilization is collapsing is because there aren't many warriors around to protect women and children. It brings up the question, at least in our house, what does it mean to be a warrior? I look forward to going to the movie and the discussion afterwards.


Monday, February 02, 2015

Music and Schoolwork

Daniel (15yrs. old) says to me, as we're sitting at the kitchen table with books and computers listening to the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, "I bet there aren't many kids that get to do their school work and listen to drug induced music." I laughed, then said, "One time I had a history teacher named Mr. Posselt. He was heavily influenced by the sixties, never married, led guided hunts in Minnesota, lived as a beggar, coached wrestling and football, taught your aunties, uncles, and grandparents, grew up in Antigo, and so on. Every Friday he'd let us move our desks wherever we wanted, shut all the lights off, and we'd listen to drug induced music for the hour. He called it Moments of Enrichment. His number one rule was: No Dope!

"Dad?" he interrupts and asks, "Do you think he'd stand with Scott Walker?" I laughed my ass off.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

U.S District Judge Overturns First County In U.S To Ban Fracking And Oil Drilling

The first county in the United States to ban fracking and oil drilling to protect their water had their local law overturned by a U.S District Judge recently. You can read the article HERE. This makes it clear to me the difference between minority and majority rule. As it stands right now we are ruled by a corporate minority. We don't have the right or the power in our communities to stop corporate harms when they are imposed upon us.

If you want to see how mean-spirited some writers can get about Community Rights and some of the leaders involved take a look at this article. Calling Thomas Linzey, Stalinist, self-serving, and narcissistic is just crazy. All for just standing up for communities to have the right to govern themselves. Thomas Jefferson is probably rolling his grave.

Reading, Writing, And Revolution With My Son

I'm once again grateful this morning for the opportunity to sit down at the kitchen table with my teenage son and read to each other Derrick Jensen's "Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution." Given that he's working on writing a novel and generally likes to write I couldn't think of a better book to read at the moment. I would recommend this book be required reading for all 16 year olds. It would also be a part of my adult bookstore and my class on revolution that ...I fantasize about nearly everyday. Hey, a guy could be having much worse fantasies. Anyway, it was a pleasure to read these lines to him:

"Someone asked me once at a talk why I so stress the positive with my students yet am such an unstinting critic of those who run our culture and who are killing the planet. I answered immediately, 'Power. If I've got power or authority over someone, it's my responsibility to use that only to help them. It's my job to accept and praise them into becoming who they are. But if I see someone misusing power to harm someone else, it's just as much my responsibility to stop them, using whatever means necessary.'"--Derrick Jensen, Pg. 17

A lot of people over the years have criticized Derrick Jensen for advocating violence in his writing. After all he has made the claim that we have to take down civilization if we want a planet for our children to live on. But I consider him to be an "everything on the table" type of guy. He advocates talking openly and honestly about the dire situation we are in (political, economic, ecological, spiritual, psychological) and all of the strategies we can use to improve the situation. I have no problem with that. And if the difficult subjects of sabotage and violence and such come up I have no problem with that either. You don't get anywhere, I think, burying your head in the sand. The things that you're burying your head about come back and bite you, like violence and war. We are born with violence and war in our souls. That's part of our inheritance as human beings when we come into this world. It's archetypal and given to us in the womb. It's part of the cosmos.

That's the truth as I see it right now. I'm glad my son and I can talk openly and honestly about it.